I’ve missed this space so much in the weeks that have passed. I’ve wanted badly to come here and string words together in this familiar spot and gain encouragement from those of you who read. But because of the details that exploded in my life last fall, I’ve resorted to an old pen-and-paper journal until I felt ready to come here and strong enough to begin to tell my story. I feel like life during these past few years has been one reinvention after another. From grad student to young married. From high school teacher to motherhood that consumed me full-time. Then to college professor with one foot in the working world and two preschoolers to look after. And now to single motherhood. I read Anne Lamott’s Small Victories this past December, in efforts to make sense of anything that was happening and to link together my fumbling attempts at reframing my whole perception. As always with the written word, the perfect thought was trying to find me, and a beacon was shining already on page ten when Lamott explains the process of forced change that happens in our lives:
“Redefinition is a nightmare – we think we’ve arrived in our nice Pottery Barn boxes, and that this or that is true. Then something happens that totally sucks, and we are in a new box, and it is like changing into clothes that don’t fit, that we hate. Yet the essence remains. Essence that is malleable, fluid. Everything we lose is Buddhist truth – one more thing that you don’t have to grab with your death grip, and protect from death or decay. It’s gone. We can mourn it, but we don’t have to get down in the grave with it.“
I’m here to finally tell you, friends, that in the weeks of my absence from here, I was in the grave, so to speak. In the darkest reaches of a grief that gripped me so completely it sickened me from the inside outward. I wish I had words to explain what it feels like to have one perfectly sculpted idea of your future, and in a matter of days, that image disappears completely. But I know so many of you know exactly what I mean by that – whether it is a wandering husband, a scary diagnosis, a death of someone you can’t live without, a change in your life or career or family that is irreversible …. We all encounter it at some point. And after that initial heaviness of grief, I’ve seen women emerge stronger and better and wiser because of it. But how they get to that new place, I am not really sure yet.
I won’t be the same me I was before. It’s weird to look back and hardly recognize who you were in your last life. I’m embarrassed in ways – of how I loved without question, married at 24, so sure that I would never be in this position. Of how unbelievably hysterical I was for weeks when this erupted. Of how I made excuse after excuse of all the things I found last October and November and blamed myself for someone else’s actions. Of how I still wonder what I could have done differently or how I could have been better, and I know that list is long. Marriage is a partnership, a work in constant progress. And I think anyone in my position tends to look back and wonder when it all started to unravel, how I could have predicted the future and intervened sooner. Why I didn’t see it coming. Sadly, you reach a point when these questions don’t even matter anymore because what’s done is done. Irreversible. The only place left to go is forward.
I wanted so badly to believe the best, and I think I also feared what life is like on the other side. And I am still a little scared, to be honest. But I’m flailing – ungracefully but purposefully – to make it to the next shore. I lost my center and my backbone in the mess that was left when it all fell apart, but I’ve found it now.
A new adventure awaits, and I’m losing my death grip, as Lamott calls it. Piece by piece, I’m letting go of what has no place in my life anymore. It still hurts, and I know I’m gripping some of those pieces a little too tightly even now. But I’ve heard it said that “Ruin is the road to transformation.” I’m ready.